Return to school has been ‘muddled and confusing’ say East Sussex councillors

The strategy of bringing children back to school has been ‘muddled and confusing’, according to East Sussex county councillors.

Thursday, 18th June 2020, 9:41 am
Updated Thursday, 18th June 2020, 11:48 am

Lib Dems are calling for more clarity from the government on its plans, after Year 10 and 12 pupils partially returned this week.

Councillor Alan Shuttleworth, who is the local party’s spokesperson for education, said, “It is time for the government to have an open discussion with school leaders to work towards getting as many children as possible back to school in a safe and organised way.

“The government must demonstrate more clarity and leadership in managing the process which has been muddled and confusing for everyone.

“Headteachers are in the best position to prepare the schools but this needs to link to an overall strategy which puts children’s needs first.”

Councillor Shuttleworth, who represent Langney in Eastbourne, also said the county council needs to ‘take a lead in encouraging our schools to work with partners in the community to identify spaces that would enable pupils to return to school with safe distancing’.

He said, “School staff have worked tirelessly to develop home learning packages for children not in school.

“School leaders and staff deserve recognition for their efforts at such a difficult time. Headteachers deserve support and clarity in planning the way forward.”

This comes after the government withdrew plans to get all primary children back by July, due to concerns over adequate social distancing.

The Lib Dems say, however, there is still confusion for parents and teachers, and a lack of direction in the planning.

Lid Dem deputy leader Councillor Kathyrn Field said, “Parents and school staff are still uncertain about the social distancing rules, the plans for catch up for children, the inequality of IT access and provision for those children who do not have access to computers at home, safe transport and personal protective equipment and arrangements to support families who have been hit hardest by covid-19.

“The government needs to provide more resources for IT outreach work for those children unable to access computers at home.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said, “This week, secondary schools have begun welcoming back year 10 and year 12 pupils and primary schools now have the flexibility to invite more children if they feel ready as part of our phased plans.

“The government has already committed more than £100 million to support children to learn at home, and pupil premium funding at the highest ever rate per pupil continues to be paid to help schools support their disadvantaged pupils.

“We are also considering, with a range of partner organisations, what more is required to support all pupils who have been affected by school closure. We will do whatever we can to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus.”

A spokesperson for East Sussex County Council said, “The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the learning and wellbeing of all pupils is profound.

“Having missed three months of learning we are pleased to see a strong take up of school places for those in the identified year groups to get back on track with their education.

“The health and safety of children and staff is paramount and it is vital that a return to the school setting is in line with the advice and guidance from the Government and Public Health England, and the county council will continue to support schools to reopen safely.”